A new study says that 43 percent of older patients mishear what their nurses or doctors tell them.

Being able to understand a nurse of physician's instructions is fundamental to avoiding medical errors. If a patient cannot understand what a medical professional is telling them, such as recommended dosage instructions or physical activities to avoid, then there is a much higher chance that they could inadvertently harm themselves. A recent study, in fact, has shown that nearly four out of ten older patients mishear a doctor or nurse, according to the Chicago Tribune. Earlier research has shown that many medical errors are a result of communication problems between patients and medical professionals.

Patients mishear doctors

The study, conducted by researchers at the University College Cork School of Medicine, surveyed 100 outpatients who were aged 60 and over. Of those surveyed, 60 percent said they suffered from some hearing loss while 26 percent required the use of a hearing aid.

In total, 43 percent of respondents said they had misheard their doctor or nurse while they were either at their doctor's office or at the hospital. As Business Insider reports, the most common reason patients misunderstood doctors or nurses was because the descriptions or instructions they were being given were too difficult to follow. Also, many patients complained that the nurse or doctor either talked too quickly or while other people were talking. Background noise, especially in hospital hallways, also frequently made it difficult for patients to hear properly what they were being told.

Older patients at higher risk

The results of the study are significant because communication problems between doctors, nurses, and families have already been identified as the leading cause of medical errors, contributing to about 36 percent of such errors. Older patients are especially vulnerable to communication problems since they are also the age group that is most dependent on doctors and nurses.

Doctors play an important role in ensuring that patients fully understand what is being told to them. One way to do that is to have patients repeat back to the doctor or nurse what they have just heard. Also, it is important to understand that miscommunication problems involving older patients cannot alwa ys be addressed by simply speaking at a higher volume. Many hearing problems, rather, involve a difficulty with separating a person's speech from background noise. That problem makes noisy hospitals especially difficult places for elderly patients to receive instructions from medical professionals.

Medical malpractice

Anybody who may have suffered an injury or illness because of poor or improper medical care should contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Patients deserve to receive the highest care possible, but unfortunately such standards are not always met. A medical malpractice attorney can help clients understand their legal options going forward and whether they may be able to pursue financial compensation as a result of their ordeal.


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